Lesson 2 of 4

What Does a One-Pager Look Like?

There’s no formal industry standard, but all stories have this in common:

  • A Beginning
  • A Middle
  • An End

This is the THREE ACT STRUCTURE at its simplest (We cover this in PLOTTING - ACT STRUCTURE & THE RULE OF THREE).

Of these three, the ending is perhaps most important. Knowing where you are going can really help a writer — even pantsers — make those difficult story decisions and discover their story’s theme.


Have a go now with your story. Give each story beat just one or two sentences.

Download the One Pager Workbook and complete the B-M-E worksheet.

For example:

  • Dorothy Gale yearns to see “over the rainbow” and escape her ordinary life. A tornado sweeps Dorothy from her home in Kansas and traps her in the Land of Oz.
  • Dorothy travels on the Yellow Brick Road and faces many challenges. She meets the Mighty Oz who demands the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West before he sends Dorothy home.
  • Dorothy defeats the Wicked Witch, but Oz is no wizard and cannot help her. Dorothy realises “there’s no place like home” and these words transport her back to her family.

Yes, that’s pretty reductive, but see how it’s not so much about the events in the story, but Dorothy and how she changes:

  • Dorothy wants to leave home and have adventures.
  • She has adventures and she faces terrible peril.
  • She realises the value of “home” and returns home a little wiser.

This is the essence of any story. A character goes on a journey of change. How does your protagonist change?

It may help to think about it thematically:

Thesis (an idea)
Antithesis (the opposite of that idea)
Synthesis (resolves the conflict between the two opposing ideas)

This represents the thematic structure of your story. Continuing our Wizard of Oz example:

  • Thesis: Leaving home has to be better than staying in one place
  • Antithesis: Leaving home is dangerous and you will make enemies
  • Synthesis: But you will also make friends and become wiser, and it is always good to come home and share what you’ve learned with the ones you love.

Here’s the thing: Your theme doesn’t need to be earth-shattering or original. The simplest themes make for wonderful stories, just like the simplest melodies make memorable songs. They key to your story’s success is down to how you will explore that theme with inventive characters and situations.


Open your One Pager Workbook and complete the second exercise “Thinking Thematically”.